The most hated candidate ever — except Trump
Last night’s BBC Panorama programme showed an America that is about to elect a president it does not like. With Trump’s unpopularity, why is Hillary Clinton not romping to an easy victory?
Hillary Clinton does not brag about sexual assaults. She does not mock disabled journalists. She does not suggest banning Muslims from entering the USA. Unlike her opponent, she actually knows about policy.
Most Europeans look at this year’s American presidential election with bafflement. They see it as a simple choice: sense versus stupidity; order versus chaos; maybe even good versus evil. Anyone but Trump.
But there is a great thumping problem at the heart of this, because Americans do not like Hillary Clinton. According to her approval ratings, she would become the most disliked president since polling began. Between 30% and 40% of Americans have a ‘highly unfavourable’ opinion of her. She is outdone on this by the epically despised Trump — he scores 44%. This is effectively an unpopularity contest.
So why have the people not fallen in love with Hillary? Why is she not certain to win this election by an enormous margin?
Well here is what her critics say: she is corrupt. She has been caught lying countless times. They see her as a warmonger, blaming her for the catastrophe in Libya. They say she is spoiling for a conflict with Russia. They say that she dislikes the average American. Most of all they say that she is power-hungry. Jeremy Paxman, who presented last night’s Panorama, called her ‘a machine-washable politician out of a tupperware catalogue’.
Those are the concrete things. But the most important reason for the Hillary hate is something more nebulous: it is a revolt against the establishment that is seizing all the Western world. And as the wife of an ex-president, few politicians embody the Washington elite like Hillary Clinton.
In the flyover states — the ignored heart of America where Trump’s message is most popular — the very word ‘Washington’ is loaded with a sense of disconnect from the ‘real lives’ of ordinary Americans.
But many of Clinton’s supporters dismiss these criticisms as masks for something nastier: a mixture of misogyny and an immature tantrum against expertise and experience. Are they right?
The unwanted president
Huge numbers of people think Hillary Clinton is unfit to be president. Her past would receive much more attention were she not up against an even less popular opponent. She is a dishonest snob — two of the worst qualities a president can have. Americans face a grim choice in 22 days’ time.
‘What nonsense’, say Clinton fans. In over two decades of public service Hillary Clinton has proved that she would be a worthy president, and her past mistakes are nothing compared to what Donald Trump has said and done. The American public’s dislike of Trump is rational; their dislike of Clinton is irrational.
- Would you vote for Hillary Clinton?
- To what extent do you think sexism is a reason for Clinton’s unpopularity?
- Design a campaign poster for either Clinton or Trump.
- Watch the Panorama programme in Become An Expert and sum up the points it makes in 300 words.
Some People Say...
“If you don’t like either candidate then don’t bother voting.”
What do you think?
Q & A
- I’m not American — does this election really matter to me?
- What happens in the USA matters to everyone. If you doubt that think what the world would be like if 9/11 and the Iraq War had never happened. The USA is Britain’s most important ally in the world, so the political route it takes will affect our relationship.
- What actually are Clinton’s politics?
- In 1996 she wrote ‘Most of us would describe ourselves as ’middle of the road’—liberal in some areas, conservative in others, moderate in most.’ She prefers to be called ‘progressive’ than ‘liberal’, though most would consider her a social liberal. Clinton has generally been in favour of foreign intervention.
- Between 30% and 40% of Americans
- To put this in context, the two least popular candidates before 2016 were Barry Goldwater (Republicans, 1964) and George McGovern (Democrats, 1972). They scored 26% and 20% respectively.
- Many people believe the Clinton foundation, which was set up by her husband Bill in 1996, is a ‘slush fund’ for the Clinton family, meaning that it is a reserve fund of money used for corrupt dealings.
- In her role as secretary of state Clinton was an important player in the overthrow and death of Colonel Gaddafi in the Libyan revolution of 2011. Since then the North African country has descended into chaos.
- Flyover states
- So-called because most people only see them from the air during flights from coast to coast. These states tend to vote Republican.